Bush Fire Victims Asbestos and Arsenic Risks

WA Senator Louise Pratt urged WA Authorities and Perth Hills residents impacted by bushfires this week to heed the lessons of the Blue Mountains bushfires when they return to their homes.

It’s very clear to me that people are keen to return home and see the damage to their properties. I understand the need to go and see the damage first hand. I grew up on Traylen Road in the middle of the zone that has been devastated by fire. I don’t know if the house my father built there many years ago still stands”.  However, I want to make sure people take the right precautions to manage the risks.

Authorities here in WA have been very vigilant in reminding residents of the dangers of hot zones with fires burning, debris, fallen electricity lines and unstable structures.

In addition, the experience in the recent Blue Mountains bush fires has taught us that asbestos and arsenic contamination from treated timber are serious risks faced by residents as they return to their homes.

I would like to encourage residents who have even minor damage to their properties to work with authorities and use caution when returning home and beware of disturbing asbestos and fire affected treated pine that may have been used in landscaping, cubby houses, pergolas and decking that will leave a residue of arsenic in the remaining ash which is toxic if ingested.

The first step is for shire and state services to work with local residents to make sure they aren’t exposing themselves or others to risks by disturbing asbestos or ash from copper chrome arsenate treated timber when they visit the site or return to live in damaged properties.

Secondly, residents will need support to ensure they aren’t exposed during what will be a long clean-up process.

It’s notable that in the previous Victorian and Tasmanian bushfires the State Government
used a single contractor for the clean-up and have helped negotiate with insurance
companies to ensure that claims include adequate clean up provisions to mitigate these
risks. I call on the State Government here in WA to consider doing the same.

No one wants to see a child poisoned through the ingestion of arsenic residue or in 20 years
to see locals with mesothelioma caused by asbestos as a result of this traumatic enough
natural disaster.

For information on the health risks you need to be aware of following a bushfire on your
property see: http://www.public.health.wa.gov.au/3/1437/2/bushfire_hazards.pm